The Boston Red Sox started their recently concluded six-game road trip against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers while somewhat floundering in August, playing to just an 8-9 record before heading back out to the West Coast.
The Sox had struggled on their previous road trip, going 4-6 and allowing the rest of the AL East to stay in the race. Boston had also managed the dubious distinction of making New York Yankees' lightning rod Alex Rodriguez a somewhat sympathetic figure along the way.
Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster had taken it upon himself to send A-Rod and the Yankees a message by nailing him with a pitch, but in the process hurt his own team by getting suspended for five games. It wasn't the time or the place to send A-Rod a message about PED use.
But things changed on Boston's recently completed road trip. The Red Sox faced the hottest team in baseball and took two of three games from the Dodgers. More importantly, Boston showed that it just might have the starting pitching to make a run in the playoffs.
All three starters for the Sox pitched impressively. John Lackey was a tough-luck loser again, Jon Lester looked fantastic on Saturday and Jake Peavy was dominant on Sunday night. The three pitchers combined for 24.1 innings and only surrendered three runs. It was exactly what the Red Sox needed.
Now comes news from Julian Benbow of Boston.com that Clay Buchholz will make a second rehab start on Friday, Aug. 30. Boston's starting pitching is starting to round into form and show potential depth.
If Buchholz can come back and give the Sox a boost, it immediately makes the pitching staff that much deeper by moving Dempster and Felix Doubront into a potential playoff bullpen.
More than their four wins in six games on the trip, the Red Sox had to be extremely encouraged by the showing of their pitching staff. Boston could have swept the Giants if it wasn't for some poor bullpen work and curious managerial decisions. The fact that the Red Sox were able to rebound and right the ship was pretty impressive.
Boston enters the home stretch of 2013 with the memories of the infamous 2011 collapse still lingering in the air. Until the Red Sox play well during this season's final month and secure a playoff spot, their fans are going to be worried about coming up just short again.
The AL East looks to be a dogfight until the bitter end and the wild-card race has tightened up as well. The Red Sox want to do everything in their power to avoid a wild-card play-in game, risking their entire season on one game.
Boston opened a nine-game homestand Tuesday night with a 13-2 thrashing of Baltimore, as the Red Sox look to start putting some distance between themselves and the Tampa Bay Rays. If the rotation can continue to shine like it has on the road, the Red Sox should be able to avoid a repeat of 2011.
If you are a Red Sox fan, the past week should have given you some reasons for optimism.